When Ira Shor and I suggested that activists create 99 Percent clubs in order to help the Occupy movements get through the winter months and emerge stronger than ever, we envisioned the clubs as support groups for Occupy activists -- providing clothing, food, winter gear, and if needed legal help -- as well as action groups in campuses and communities dealing with issues members deemed important.
The first 99 Percent club that we created at Fordham did both of those things -- gave support to local Occupy movements and began planning education and action programs to address issues at the University. But what we did not envision, when we created the club, was how it would create an incredible online free speech zone and public square not only for club members, but for people with no direct connection to Fordham who found out what we were doing
The vehicle for this was the Fordham 99 Percent Club Facebook page. When the page was first set up, its primary activity was to announce Club meetings, but soon, people on the page began posting issues for discussion, first relating to the local and national Occupy movement, later on the two main issues the Club was concerned with – economic inequality and threats to free speech. By the beginning of December, these discussion threads had assumed a life of their own, presenting a remarkable array of viewpoints and perspectives all welcomed in an ecumenical spirit.
We have discussed the police attacks on Occupy movements, the new National Defense Act with provisions for preventive detention, the student debt conundrum, the Ron Paul campaign, the European economic crisis, the prospect for third party initiatives, and many, many other important subjects. The Club Facebook page, in effect, duplicated the atmosphere of Occupy Wall Street, where General Assemblies were reinforced by literally scores of discussion groups and special initiatives,
As I see it, what happened in the Fordham 99 Percent club for what could happen around the nation if people created 99 Percent Clubs on their campuses and communities. Each club could become a Free Speech Zone as well as an action group in behalf of economic justice and freedom of expression. And in a society where all too many campuses and city governments are closing off such zones, and where big money is controlling much of public discourse, this could be a shot in the arm for popular democracy’
So if the spirit moves you, create your own 99 Percent club and when you do, create your own club Facebook page where the issues of the day can be discussed freely and enthusiastically, creating a model which we can fight for in the public spaces our universities and local governments are supposed to protect
With a Brooklyn Accent
Photo: Michael Dussault.